I'm sitting here with very cold ears but a very warm heart following another successful Breath of Fresh Air walk. They they are a weekly event that I have come to look forward to and thoroughly enjoy, so I thought I would write a blog explaining what they are and how they came about.
I completed my doula training in September 2017 and launched myself feet first into the birth world later that year. I was very lucky and fascinated to meet many highly skilled practitioners working with pregnant women and new mothers. I have met reiki practitioners, reflexologists, baby massage teachers, hypnotherapy teachers, yoga teachers, Pilates teachers and many more. Their level of skill and expertise made me question my what else I could offer. I felt conscious that I am ‘just’ a birth and postnatal doula.
Whilst I lived in and around London for 20 years, I am a country girl at heart. I was born in Bridport, Dorset and grew up just down the road in Charmouth. I love getting out into the countryside, watching how the vegetation changes as the seasons pass and find my spirits lifted by being outside, no matter what the weather. I like exercise, and appreciate the benefits that it can offer, not just in terms of cake consumption, but also as a means to clear my head and lift my mood. I’d much rather exercise outside though, preferring to go for a run around the town over the treadmill and the Lido over the indoor pool any day of the week. I’ve also recently got into Pilot gig Rowing, but that’s another story!!
When I was a new parent I found it quite lonely and isolating; with my eldest daughter because I didn’t know anyone in the area who was pregnant or who had a baby, and then with my second daughter because I’d been working full time. There were several Bump and baby groups in my local area, but I didn’t want to always want to sit around drinking tea and eating biscuits (though I *do* enjoy doing that!!) I came up with the idea of starting a weekly walk for pregnant women and new mothers in the Spring of 2018 after attending my local Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) meeting and listening to a presentation by a representative from Lewisham Walking for Health. Walking for Health is England’s largest network of health walks with over 350 active walking schemes, helping people across the country lead a more active lifestyle (https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/about-us). They are generally marketed towards individuals who might otherwise have a fairly sedentary lifestyle: the elderly, the overweight and those recovering or suffering from chronic disease, though the principles apply to women in the perinatal period as well. Gentle exercise outside is good for everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing! And walking is definitely a skill that I have. Not a special skill, I know, but one which I actively enjoy and can share with others 😊
I was pleasantly busy with my birth and postnatal doula work in Spring and Summer 2018 but managed to fairly regularly attend the Greenwich Health Walk that explored the area around Oxleas Woods. I completed the WfH walk leader course in June 2018 (getting called away to support a birth 10 minutes from the end!) and was able to tail-walk at Oxleas shortly afterwards. 2/3 of the training was complete!
Meanwhile 2 things happened: one of my local doula colleagues started leading a walk for new mums in the park adjacent to my own and we made the decision as a family that we would relocate back to my home county of Dorset at the end of the summer. My plans to set up a mum’s walk were put on hold…
We moved to Bridport in September 2018. I’m so lucky to be able to live near my sister and her young son (as well as my parents and my in-laws!) and it occurred to me that even if it were just them and me meeting for a walk and a coffee each week that I’d be very happy. We decided on a day and time that worked for both of us and she came up with the name: ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’! I loved it immediately, the image of the wind blowing away those mental cobwebs and allowing you to breathe freely really resonated. We devised some routes based around one of the local coffee shops, my husband worked with me on the marketing materials and we were ready to start! I advertised the walk on the local Facebook pages and from the first ‘proper’ week we have had between 2 and 9 mums and babies with the occasional dad and dog!
Every week I look forward to our walk, catching up with how the mums are coping with the joys and challenges of new parenthood and watching the babies grow and change week by week. We have wide ranging, random and occasionally inappropriate conversations as well as offering mutual support and advice (on, amongst other topics babywearing, reusable nappies, animal husbandry, tree surgeons and baby led weaning…!). I love watching friendships developing among the regular walkers, knowing that they’re meeting up at other times too, and it’s gratifying when they bring along other mummy friends to bolster our ranks. There isn’t much awareness round here of the work that postnatal doulas do, and I have not yet managed to find any families that would like my support in the home, so it’s wonderful to be able to use my skills of listening, supporting and signposting in a more informal setting. All-in-all I feel that A Breath of Fresh Air is working out to be a very successful venture!!